Jesus Mendez and Denver Jarvis, accused of setting Michael Brewer on fire, receive prison sentences

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Two of the teenagers charged in the burning attack of teenager Michael Brewer pleaded no contest to second degree attempted murder in Broward County court Wednesday morning.

Jesus Mendez, now 18, received a sentence of 11 years in a Florida state prison, one year of community control and 18 years' probation.

Denver Jarvis, now 17, received an 8 year prison sentence, to be followed by one year of community control and 21 years' probation.

The third teen charged in the Deerfield Beach incident, Matthew Bent, now 17, declined to enter a plea during the hearing Wednesday. His trial is scheduled to begin March 12 and his former co-defendants are expected to testify against him.

Before he was sentenced, Jarvis told the court, "Had I known that something like that would happen, I never would have [participated in the attack]."

Brewer was set on fire in the parking lot of a Deerfield Beach apartment complex in October 2009, and three schoolmates were accused of committing the crime.

With his parents, two grandparents and an aunt at his side, Brewer, now 17, was in court for the hearings.

After it was over, Brewer said of his former friends, "They knew exactly what they were doing."

There were no negotiated deals with prosecutors. A no contest plea means a defendant accepts the punishment without conceding guilt.

Judge Michael Robinson denied defense attorneys' requests that the offenders be treated as juveniles.

Their incarcerations will be spent in adult facilities, and their prison terms will be reduced by 2 years, 4 months, credit for time already served.

Prosecutor Maria Schneider conceded that the crime was not premeditated and did not ask for the maximum 30-year sentence that each defendant could have faced. She said the consequences were so serious that a message had to be sent with the lengthy sentences that were imposed.

Before the pleas were entered, one of Brewer's grandparents, Reenie Brewer, told Judge Michael Robinson about the first days of her grandson's recovery. She described how he would kick his legs, thinking he was still on fire.

"We hoped then and still hope today that he never remembers the pain he went through," she said. "The pain was worse than a shot to the head."

Bent was the alleged ringleader reportedly angry over a $40 debt, Jarvis was accused of pouring a flammable liquid on the victim at Bent's command and Mendez was accused of taunting Brewer by flicking a lighter and igniting the life-threatening blaze.

Brewer suffered second- and third-degree burns over two-thirds of his body and saved his own life by jumping into a nearby swimming pool. He recovered, is attending an alternative high school and is living in West Palm Beach.

Defense lawyers had said the case was too complicated to try the three defendants together because evidence that would be admissible against one teen might not be permitted against the other two.

The attack on Brewer outraged the community and drew national attention to Deerfield Beach, where at the time, all four teens attended Deerfield Beach Middle School.

According to court papers and witness statements, the argument between Brewer and Bent was about a perceived debt.

"He wanted me to buy something from him that I didn't want to buy," Brewer told investigators. "I don't know what it was."

Detectives said Bent and Jarvis showed up at the Brewers' home the night before the attack on Brewer's 15th birthday, to collect. When Brewer still wouldn't pay, Bent allegedly stole a custom bicycle worth $500 belonging to Brewer's father.

Brewer's family called the Broward Sheriff's Office and Bent was arrested.

Brewer stayed home from school the next day, and in the afternoon went out to find a friend at the nearby Lime Tree Village apartment complex.

There he encountered Bent, Jarvis, Mendez and six other teens. The boys had earlier found an open container of liquid they suspected to be rubbing alcohol. At one point, Bent ordered Jarvis to pour the liquid on Brewer, according to witness statements. Mendez reportedly was injured himself when the fumes ignited.


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